Backgrounds – Make or break

This blog is titled Backgrounds – Make or Break and I would like to talk about one of the most important aspects in capturing good nature images which is backgrounds and their selection. When photographing animals and birds in the wild, the background of an image is one of the key aspects that can make or break a good nature image.  The images shown in this blog have been taken a few frames apart and will illustrate the difference a angle or a few seconds make as either you or  the subject moves.

The Flamingo walks in the blue water reflected by the open sky.

The Flamingo walks in the blue water reflected by the open sky.

Be very aware of what you are seeing as the background when you compose the shot.  If you are shooting a bird in flight against a uniform blue sky then you don’t have a lot to worry about other than tracking and focussing on the fast moving subject.  If you have birds landing and taking off and you have trees or bushes in certain areas which you want to avoid, try and plan your shot so that you capture the birds as the pass through any “clean” open areas.  If however you are shooting a perched bird or an animal on the ground then be very aware of clutter that could detract from the quality of your image.

In the images of the Flamingo walking in the water of the West Coast National Park lagoon, the backgrounds are dramatically different in just a few frames.  I saw the Flamingo walk from left right and from  blue water into this stunning gold colour and out into the blue water again.  This makes for an image that is differentiated from the norm just due to the colour of the environment and background.

The Flamingo crosses from walks in the gold reflection in the water created by early mining light and a low hill in the background. Time: 7:22:34 AM, Model:, NIKON D800,  Lens (mm): 1200, ISO: 800, Aperture: 8, Shutter: 1/6400, Exp. Comp.: -1.3, Program: Aperture Priority

The Flamingo passes into the gold reflection in the water created by early morning light and a low hill in the background.
Time: 7:22:34 AM, Model:, NIKON D800, Lens (mm): 1200, ISO: 800, Aperture: 8, Shutter: 1/6400, Exp. Comp.: -1.3, Program: Aperture Priority

Earlier I mentioned clutter, and when I say clutter I mean branches, bushes, other animals or birds, rocks, elephant dung, out of focus objects on foreground etc. basically anything that if you could compose the image from scratch you would leave out.If you find these objects in your shot then try and move to get a better angle or if there are other animals or birds close by, then see if they could make a better image.  When for instance you are shooting from slow moving boat or vehicle and you have the subject framed in the viewfinder, then observe how the background changes as your angle changes.  I am fortunate to be able to observe and experience this first hand from our CNP Safari boats on the Chobe.

Below are some examples of how the background can change behind a subject as we drift past on the CNP photographic boats.  I always try and take a few shots while we are moving past or around the subject in order to capture the “different” images.

.

White-fronted Bee-eater Green BG

White-fronted Bee-eater
Model: NIKON D4, Lens (mm): 1200, ISO: 800, Aperture: 8, Shutter: 1/3200, Exp. Comp.: -1.0, Program: Aperture Priority

White-fronted Bee-eater Model: NIKON D4 Lens (mm): 1200 ISO: 800 Aperture: 10 Shutter: 1/2500 Exp. Comp.: -1.0 Program: Aperture Priority

White-fronted Bee-eater
Model: NIKON D4, Lens (mm): 1200, ISO: 800, Aperture: 10, Shutter: 1/2500, Exp. Comp.: -1.0. Program: Aperture Priority

You do not always have control or have the ability to change the background by moving position and then you just have to make do with the situation and accept that the images captured would be for the sake of the memories of the sighting.  We tend to get emotional and excited when we photograph something for the first time or when the scene is dramatic and only afterwards actually “see” what we captured.  Sometimes to our own disappointment.

Many times a slight angle change would have gotten rid of the clutter or little branch in the way of the subject.  On the images of the Bee-eaters on the left and right I also played around with the f stop to ensure I had the bird and perch in focus.

So stay calm and quickly go through your mental checklist of:

  • Do I have enough Depth of Field for the shot.  Consider stopping down to increase your DoF and ensure you get the surroundings in focus as well.
  • Am I happy with the background or can I improve the background by moving and changing the angle slightly.
  • What shutter speed am I getting and is it enough for the anticipated action of the animal or bird.

Join me on a CNP Photographic Safari to some wonderful places on the African continent.  My various contact details are listed below.

email:  neal@cnpsafaris.com

Facebook: Cooper Nature Images

My website:  www.coopernaturephotos.com

Twitter: @CNPNeal

CNP Website:  www.cnpsafaris.com

Online shop:  www.cnpconsult.co.za

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s